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5 Movies like Let the Right One In: Childhood’s Dark Side

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James Holloway itcherFor some reason, we tend to think of childhood as an idyllic time of innocence and carefree play. It’s odd, because we can all remember how frightening being a child could be – and how cruel children sometimes are. That dark vision of childhood takes a savage turn in Tomas Alfredson’s ‘Let the Right One In.’ For more tales of darkness, blood and childhood, check out this list of movies like ‘Let the Right One In.’ From haunting vampire tales like Neil Jordan’s ‘Byzantium’ to the surreal terror of Terry Gilliam’s ‘Tideland,’ you’ll never remember being a kid the same way again. ~ James Holloway

Just Being Bullied Doesn’t Make You a Good Guy

When a shy, unhappy boy named Oskar (Kare Hedebrant) meets a mysterious new neighbour named Eli (Lina Leandersson), it seems like he’s finally found a friend. But Oskar’s developing relationship with Eli drags him into a sinister world of blood and violence – for Eli is not what she appears to be.

This tale of obsession, loyalty and cruelty unfolds against a stark, bleakly-­lit setting; it’s probably the most horrifying the suburbs of Stockholm have ever looked.

The themes of childhood and horror often go hand in hand – particularly with tales of vampires.

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Movies Similar to ‘Let the Right One In’…

‘Byzantium’ (Neil Jordan, 2012)

When vampiric mother­daughter duo Clara (Gemma Arterton) and Eleanor (Saoirse Ronan) are discovered by the male­dominated vampire authorities, they have to go on the run again, ending up in a lonely, seedy coastal town where they set up shop in an old hotel.

Neil Jordan directed ‘Interview with the Vampire,’ and some of the same themes are visible here, but the tone of desperation and degeneration in the modern storyline of ‘Byzantium’ – and the performances from the leads – elevate this second vampire tale to a new level.

Similarity Match: 80%
Sordid, lonely and bleak, both films are powerful and compelling, if not exactly a barrel of laughs.

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‘The Devil’s Backbone’ (Guillermo del Toro, 2001)

Young orphan Carlos (Fernando Tielve) isn’t a monster, but he’s surrounded by a world of them; the Spanish Civil War is drawing to a close and the new orphanage he’s been sent to is under threat from the forces of the Nationalist dictator.

To make matters worse, rumour around the orphanage has it that the building is haunted by the ghost of a boy who used to sleep in Carlos’ the orphanage start to come to light.

Similarity Match: 70%
Unlike ‘Let the Right One In,’ ‘The Devil’s Backbone’ uses its child characters as symbols of innocence – but the world around them is far from innocent.

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‘Tideland’ (Terry Gilliam, 2005)

When her father dies of a drug overdose, Jeliza­Rose (Jodelle Ferland) is left to herself, exploring the Texas countryside with her faithful doll­head companions. When she meets another local with an equally vivid fantasy life, Jeliza­Rose’s dreams begin to accelerate toward a dark and violent conclusion.

Terry Gilliam’s a great filmmaker, but ‘Tideland’ is a tough movie to watch; it’s dark, tragic and horrific, and it spares no one.

Similarity Match: 70%
As lush and rotten as ‘Let the Right One In’ is stark and cold, ‘Tideland’ shares the central theme of childhood and its cruelty.

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If You Like ‘Let the Right One In’, You Will Like …

If you like your movies bleak, bloody and morally ambiguous, you don’t have to limit your search to kid vampires – although there are a surprising number of them out there. Here are some other films like ‘Let the Right One In.’

‘The Babadook’ (Jennifer Kent, 2014)

Young widow Amelia (Essie Davis) is raising a troubled boy named Sam (Essie Davis) who becomes fixated on the idea that he’s being pursued by an imaginary monster, the Babadook. Is the creature real, or is it just Amelia’s anxieties and Sam’s behavioural problems given nightmarish form?

Totally real. Yup; just a big old shadowy monster.

‘The Babadook’ flirts with some of the same ideas as ‘Let the Right One In,’ but ends up as a more conventional horror movie. Still a well­made conventional horror movie, and still worth seeing.

***
‘Ring’ (Hideo Nakata, 1998)

Some people call this movie ‘Ringu’ to distinguish it from the Gore-­Verbinski­-directed American remake. By now, the story is familiar if you like horror movies at all: a cursed video, a concerned journalist, a monster in the form of a long­-haired little girl, and a strange past of cruel experiments.

The thing that distinguishes Nakata’s film from its sequels and imitators is the juxtaposition of eerie, horrific imagery with the bleak, boring landscape of the modern city – there little apartments, fluorescent-­lit offices and dingy streets in this film.

Bleak concrete cityscapes and dark, creepy images make ‘Ring’ one of the defining films of modern Japanese horror.

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Nightmares of Childhood

Films like ‘Let the Right One In’ deal not only with our memories of childhood fears but also our fears of children – their whims, their lack of empathy, their ruthless amorality. Some horror films take the child’s perspective a little more: see Guillermo del Toro’s excellent ‘Pan’s Labyrinth‘ for an example.

Do you have a childhood horror film that I need to see? Leave a comment and let me know!

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